At the Beach — March 10, 2015 at 5:04 am

How to Make a Driftwood Beach Hut

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©istockphotos/Optic Impulse

©istockphotos/Optic Impulse

While spending all day on the beach sounds like a good idea in theory, there are two realities that bring a damper to the enjoyment. One is that most beaches are highly exposed to the sun, and aside from a small tent to pack, the options for shade are usually quite limited. The other factor is that once you’ve gone swimming, tossed the frisbee, made a sand castle, and sat out for a bit, a full day in the sun can seem like a really long time. One activity solves both those problems, and gives you a lasting reward at the end of it: The driftwood cabana.

It’s not just for those stranded on a desert island. By creating your own driftwood hut you have a lasting structure (depending on how well built) that also provides shade and shelter should the conditions change. Even if your hotel isn’t far around the corner, it can be a fun thing to do to bring people together. It also kills the idle time spent at the beach. Some people love just lying on a beach towel without moving for 4 hours, but if you crave constant activity this can get old really fast. A good cabana will take several hours, both to gather the materials and to actually build the structure. Then, of course, you will have to budget some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, which means that this activity gives you a full day’s worth of exercise and ingenuity.

The minimum supplies are a shovel and rope, but if you have access to a hammer and nails (and it’s not a problem to leave the structure standing after you are finished), then nailing your pieces together will save time and add strength. However, it’s not necessary. You will need at least 2-4 able-bodied people for the build to complete the job in a reasonable amount of time. Depending on how much driftwood you have available, you might need more people to act as scouts to bring the supplies to the site. You will need 4 main support posts as wide as possible and at least 10-12ft long. Most of these will be buried in the sand so you want them to be much longer than your planned roof height. As long as you have the minimum length their sizes can vary, but since these will serve as your support structure you want them to be straight and sturdy. Also you will want one end of these to have a notch on the end, either naturally or by chipping away with a hatchet.

From there you start digging. The difficulty will depend on the consistency of the sand. But you can expect to spend about half an hour per hole digging at a consistent pace. This is probably the most difficult part of the build-you’ll be working up a good sweat especially if you’re out in the heat. The deeper you can dig, the more sturdy the posts will be, but you will naturally need longer posts. Make sure the holes are equal distance to each other and at right angles. Once the holes are dug, place the posts one by one by having 1-2 people keeping the post plumb while anyone remaining quickly fills in the hole. If you dug deep enough the posts should be nice and sturdy.

The next phase is attaching beams to the posts which will serve as the support as your roof. These beams should be as straight as possible, and at least 4-5 inches in diameter. However you don’t want them so heavy as to knock the posts off center, remembering that the posts are only held in place by the deep hole you dug. If you have nails then this can be helpful, otherwise you can attach the beams to the posts with wrapping a long rope around each joint as tightly as possible. You should now have a square joining the four posts on top, which will provide the frame for your roof. If possible you can also have a smaller beam joining two of the other beams in the middle which will serve as extra support for the roof branches on the next step.

From there you want to find some smaller branch-sized stocks that you can lay across the beams to create your roof. These can vary in size, and as long as they are long enough to stretch across the length between beams, they do not necessarily have to be straight.

After that, it’s all cosmetic, and you can dress up your hut to your liking. Many people like to build walls using other sticks and branches, and create further shade using leaves or palm fronds (depending on your latitude). You should now have a primitive hut to keep you out of the sun and a fun beach shelter to pass the time.

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